The Four Corners finds itself in an unprecedented economic landscape and elected officials are choosing to expend valuable time, resources and money pointing fingers and aggressively combatting the entities working to make sure our communities don’t get left behind.
The Energy Transition Act (ETA), far from harming our communities and workers, as Rep. Rod Montoya mistakenly believes, advocates for them during an energy and economic transition that is already underway. Failing to identify opportunities and visions for transition could prove devastating for our community if not addressed with a reasonable examination of alternatives and contingencies. Unfortunately, the current stance adopted by elected officials such as Montoya is not reasonable and goes against the realities and trends readily visible in the economic market today.
San Juan Generating Station is on the road to closure, not because of politics, but because of economics. In the first quarter of 2019 coal generation continued its decline as utilities invested in cheap renewables over prohibitively expensive coal, many times even foregoing new gas generation. We see similar economic explanations for the sustained downswing in local oil and gas jobs; the price of oil is low and projected by many to fall even further. The Energy Transition Act is not to blame for national and international market trends.
Having grown up in Farmington, it is painful to see such embarrassing and alienating behavior by our elected officials, especially when it is so detrimental to the future of our community. Our neighbors are prudently investing in sustainable solutions and it’s time to embrace the imminent transition at our doorstep. Renewables are part of a robust solution moving forward and we don’t have to look far to see communities that have recognized this.
Last week Bloomfield announced plans to partner with Guzman Energy, the company responsible for many regional rural coops and municipal utilities’ increased renewable portfolios, and explore the freedom afforded by a split from Farmington Electric Utility System (FEUS).
In April, the Navajo Nation issued a proclamation penning its intent to shift focus from coal generation towards renewables. The Nation recently received a federal loan for two utility-scale solar plants meant to assist in economic transition as the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station closes at the end of the year.
Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) has partnered with the Jicarilla Apache tribe to construct 50 MW of solar generation, half of which will go towards the continued de-carbonization of the City of Albuquerque’s energy. PNM has also stated its dedication to being 100% carbon-free by 2040, five years ahead of schedule.
Unlike these examples of communities being forced to take the initiative in investing in their futures, Farmington and San Juan County are now being handed resources and opportunities through the Energy Transition Act. Yet, officials such as Montoya still choose to lash out at those responsible for this much-needed assistance.
As stipulated by the Energy Transition Act, replacement power will be sited in the Central Consolidated School District and up to $40 million dollars of economic development funding will be provided to our community for economic transition, including retraining and severance for displaced workers.
Through this legislation, state legislators, the current Administration and PNM have pledged unprecedented investment in the future well being of Farmington and San Juan County, and our response is to call for resignations?
When reality strikes, I hope we still have time to work together with those attempting to assist us and explore the alternatives we are neglecting now.
Zach Pavlik is a lifelong Farmington resident currently working as the San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer for San Juan Citizens Alliance.